Despite victory in the Cootamundra by-election on Saturday, The Nationals were issued with a warning that the electorate was unhappy with the deal they have been getting from the Coalition government.
Country Labor Candidate for the Cootamundra by-election Charlie Sheahan has conceded defeat to Nationals candidate Steph Cooke. Mr Sheahan helped to deliver a 20 per cent swing against the Nationals.
This was a strong message to the Berejiklian/Barilaro Government and the Nationals against their forced council amalgamations, against their plans to merge local area commands, against cuts to health and education and against their actions to increase electricity prices, Mr Sheahan said.
Disappointing results for the Nationals were pronounced in areas with forced council amalgamations. The swings against the Nationals included Gundagai High School 43%, Gundagai South 34%, Cootamundra High 25% and Cootamundra Public 26%. Other disappointing results for the Government were seen in Nangus 46%, Stockinbingal 37%, Tumblong War Memorial 45%, Wallendbeen -40%, Weethalle Public School -25%, Wombat Soldiers Memorial Hall 43%, Young North Public 24%, Woodstock 29%, and Young pre-poll 19%.
“Cootamundra is now a marginal seat for the Nationals,” Mr Sheahan said. “I congratulated Steph Cooke on her victory yesterday. Now we need to see action. We need Ms Cooke to cross the floor on any issue that isn’t in the interests of Cootamundra and not just tow the Nationals line.”
Deputy Premier and Leader of the NSW Nationals John Barilaro said it had been a hard-fought campaign and he was delighted that the NSW Nationals would retain both seats of Murray and Cootamundra.
“Our two candidates in Steph Cooke (Cootamundra) and Austin Evans (Murray) deserve this. They have worked extremely hard engaging with communities, listening to locals and dealing with the tough issues, and I know they will continue to do so,” he said. “I want people like Steph and Austin on my team. Local champions and tough fighters.
“These by-elections were a big test for us as a Party and for me as a new leader. The nature of a by-election, together with some of the issues of the past meant we were always expecting a large swing against us. But I think voters recognised that we have worked hard to fix the mistakes of the past and that we are a good government that is in the midst of seriously improving the lives of people in regional and rural NSW,” he said.
Mr Barilaro thanked the voters of Cootamundra and Murray for electing Ms Cooke and Mr Evans.
“I can tell you Steph, Austin and I won’t take this opportunity for granted. Whether people voted for the Nationals or not, we will all work hard to earn your trust and respect, starting now,” Mr Barilaro said.
With more than two thirds of the votes already counted on Saturday night, the Nationals were ahead with more than 45 per cent of the vote in Cootamundra and just over 40 per cent in Murray. The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party were a close second in the Murray electorate with their well known candidate Helen Dalton standing against The Nationals Austin Evans, and had more than 30 per cent of the vote. Country Labor were narrowly ahead of SFF in Cootamundra, with the parties splitting the opposition to the Nationals at just less than a quarter each. Mr Barilaro was on hand in the Cootamundra electorate to celebrate the victory with candidate Steph Cook, who will replace Katrina Hodgkinson after 18 years in parliament.